By Jake Donovan
It was a fight both fighters needed to win. In the end, Tim Bradley and Diego Chaves simply had to settle for not losing, as the pair of welterweights fought to a 12-round split decision draw Saturday evening at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Scores were 116-112 Chaves, 115-113 Bradley and 114-114 even.
Both fighters were coming off of a loss heading into Saturday's contest.
Bradley hadn't fought since dropping a decision to Manny Pacquiao in their rematch this past April, a bout which produced the first defeat of his career. Chaves came in on the heels of a 9th round disqualification at the hands of Brandon Rios in August.
Given the desperate need for a win by both, there was plenty of physical action over the course of the 12-round affair. Most of it was brought by Bradley early on, as the chiseled Californian scored big to the body and consistently landed the more telling blows.
Talks of a grind-'em brawl surfaced during Fight Week, and threatened to transpire after Bradley was clipped with a headbutt in the early rounds. The accidental foul left the former two-division champ with massive swelling around his left eye and what is believed to have been a fractured left cheekbone.
Ever the warrior, Bradley fought through the pain, enough where most believed he'd return to the win column by night's end.
I'm not saying it's horrible," Bradley (31-1-1, 12KOs) said of the decision afterward. "I can give him four rounds, five max. I was landing the cleaner punches and thought I won the fight."
To Chaves' credit, momentum began to swing in his favor midway through the contest, and particularly towards the end. The performance was far better than what was produced versus Rios over the summer, though to be expected given his late arrival in town for the August trip due to governmental backlog severely delaying his ability to secure a travel visa.
With plenty of rest and time in town this week, Chaves had no excuses to not be at his best. He was, and apparently his best was enough to fight on even terms - according to the judges - with one of the best fighters in the world.
"I thought the fight was even and that I needed just a little bit more to take the win back home to Argentina," admits Chaves, whose record moves to 23-2-1, 19KOs. Unbeaten through 21 pro bouts, the Argentine brawler has now won just one contest in his past four starts.
The bout aired live on HBO's World Championship Boxing, atop a live tripleheader.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox